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Read more. What's New - Home - Login. School Donation Program In Memory of How To Swap Books? Ahmad Kasravi 29 September - March 11, , was a notable Iranian linguist, historian, and reformer.
Later, he joined the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. He experienced a sort of conversion to Western learning when he learned that the comet of had been identified as a reappearance of Halley's comet. He abandoned his clerical training after this event and enrolled in the American Memorial School of Tabriz. Thenceforward he became, in Roy Mottahedeh's words, "a true anti-cleric. While still a seminary student in Tabriz, his home town, he came into contact with militants of the constitutionalist movement.
The constitutionalist movement in Iran had driven a wedge between the cleric. Some rallied to its support and legitimized it while others argued that an Islamic form of government can only be based on the Shari'a. The clerical opponents of the movement accused its proponents of seeking to impose the will of the people over that of God. From the early age of sixteen, Kasravi became a pro-constitutionalist. Kasravi's experience with every day private and social conduct of Muslims confronted him with a major epistemological problem.
He witnessed certain acts and practices prevalent among the Shi'a for which he could not find sources or evidence in Islamic jurisprudence that he considered sound, and which he could not rationally explain.
He also observed that those same Muslims refrained from certain acts which he believed were incumbent upon any pious believer. He identified a rupture between what he considered as the essence of the faith, the observation of which would have secured the welfare of the believers, and the outward signs or the form of the faith, which he believed to have developed into a superstitious series of futile rites and rituals. Cut off from worldly affairs, which according to Kasravi were the concern of religion, the Shi'a were, he concluded, still grappling with the problems and circumstances of 1, years ago.
Shi'i Muslims, he observed were neither concerned with the national integrity and prosperity of their country, nor with colonialism and the reasons for the subjugation of the Eastern countries to European powers. In Kasravi's mind, pursuing the essence of the faith resulted in social benefit. The deep preoccupation of the Shi'a with religious formalities, however, deprived them of the means to improve their socioeconomic condition. He maintained that excess zeal in practising what he considered to be 'impurities', which had crept into the faith, was the cause of the people's state of deprivation and underdevelopment.
According to Kasravi, Islam was the guiding torch of the people in the pursuit of welfare, yet at the hands of the Shi'a it had become the source of their deception and misfortune. Although Kasravi had written an important book called Shari'at Ahmadi on the osul and foru' of Islam and Shi'ism, he gradually began to question not only the role and legitimacy of the clergy, but even the basis of Shi'ism.
He distinguished two different types of Islam: the Islam of the pious Prophet and the Islam of all the various sects that had emerged from the spread of the religion. According to Kasravi, the two were opposed to one another. Existing Islam was an institution run by the clerics, beneficial to no one and the source of great misfortune. The object of religion, he argued, was to secure the welfare of the people by finding solutions to their daily problems such as poverty, unemployment, and ill health.
These he believed, were the acts which would please God. According to Kasravi, the clergy did not perform their expected role. Instead of functioning as the enlightened shepherd who would lead his flock to spiritual and material felicity, they misled the people, perpetrated ignorance, deprivation and superstition. Kasravi reproached the clergy on several counts. He derided their role in deepening the animosity between Shi'i and Sunni Muslims.
He attacked the custom of building shrines for the Imams and characterized their worship as idolatry. He accused the clergy of deceiving the people by encouraging them to go on pilgrimages as a means of attaining salvation or as a guarantee for the realization of a miracle. Kasravi argued that a reward could be expected only for a useful act.
The lavish expenditure on pilgrimage, he maintained, was best spent on feeding and clothing the hungry and the poor. He mocked the concept of mediation shafa'at , according to which on Judgment Day the Imams would request the salvation of a sinner from God and obtain it if only he were to mourn the Imams, visit their shrines and petition them with prayers tavasol. Kasravi revolted against what he called the cult of personality of Shi'i Imams which had led to the Shi'i custom of 'people worshipping'.
Thus Kasravi claimed that the faith had to be cleansed from all its impurities and called for a return to its original essence. Many of Kasravi's above-mentioned criticisms of Shi'i rituals and practices as well as his view on the role of the traditional clergy, later found its echo in modernist Islamic circles and especially in the works of Ali Shariati.
Kasravi, who at first seemed to be a reformer of Shi'ism, later hardened his position and became anti-Shi'i. Throughout the book he remains highly respectful and reverential towards Imam Ali, Imam Hossein and their original followers. According to Kasravi, two factors were instrumental in institutionalizing the deviations and aberrations of the Shi'i faith: Imam Ja'far Sadeq, the sixth Shi'i Imam and the founder of Shi'i feqh jurisprudence and the Safavid dynasty.
Whereas Imam Hossein revolted against Mo'awiya to regain his right to caliphate, Kasravi argues that Imam Ja'far Sadeq claimed himself to be the rightful and God-ordained imam, yet instead of struggling for his right, he chose the safety of his home. Proclaiming power without wishing to challenge the existing political power necessarily bred certain problems.
According to Kasravi, the Shi'i practice of dissimulation of one's real beliefs taqiyeh when survival is at stake, was in fact a means of deception which legitimized falsehood. The safavid rulers who wished to prove their Shi'i zeal went to extremes to uphold established Shi'i rituals and rites. With the active collaboration of the clergy, they accentuated those aspects which Kasravi believed to be impurities.
They institutionalized the custom of insulting Abu Bakr, Omar, and Osman, thereby deepening the hatred between Shi'a and Sunnis. It was also during their time that Islam became synonymous with observing certain formal rituals such as attending and weeping at mourning sessions rowzeh-khani , going on pilgrimages and petitioning the imams with prayers.
Later, Shari'ati too identified Safavid Shi'ism as a 'polytheistic' religion. Kasravi's attack on the practices of certain Islamic jurists faqaha and the Safavids, under whose rule Shi'ism became Iran's official religion and the Shi'i clergy obtained power and prestige, was a challenge to the dominant perception of Islamic practices. Kasravi, however, was very careful not to question or negate any of the three fundamental basis for Islam, namely monotheism, prophethood and resurrection.
From the Shi'i community's point of view, Kasravi crossed the Rubicon when he attacked the authenticity of certain essential pillars of Twelver Shi'i thought and insulted certain highly revered Shi'i infallibles. He rejected the commonly held belief that the first three caliphs had usurped the position of Imam Ali. He challenged the concept of imamate, or the right of Imam Ali and his male lineage to the religious and temporal leadership of the Islamic community. Kasravi rejected the infallibility of the Twelve Imams, ridiculed the existence of the Twelfth Imam and consequently the central Shi'i notion of his occultation and his promised return on earth.
In his writings, Kasravi demeaned several of the imams and Fatemeh, the daughter of the Prophet and Ali's wife. Kasravi repudiated the axiomatic theoretical basis of Shi'ism. His criticism was no longer directed at one or another member of the clergy, certain practices or rituals, but the content, object and raison d'etre of the Shi'i faith. His discourse had become anti-Shi'a. Having had a traditional clerical education, Kasravi must have anticipated the traditional response of the clerical community to his discourse.
Kasravi's criticism of the mechanical, superstitious, ahistorical and dogmatic nature of Shi'ism, as it was practised in his day, left an undeniable mark on the Muslims who sought to modernize their religion.
Kasravi's tumultuous life and his fate also indicated the extent and limitations of an open attack on certain rituals and practices, the clergy, and ultimately certain fundamentals of the faith. The controversy around Kasavi's arguments and his assassination could not have escaped the thirteen year old, inquisitive Ali Shari'ati. It could be justifiably argued that both Mohammad Taqi Ali Shariati's father and Ali Shari'ati were sensitive to and influenced by Kasravi's criticisms and denunciation of Shi'i excesses and the clerical institution.
During his stay in Paris, Ali Shari'ati sent home a list of books he needed in preparation for a lecture on 'New Islamic Currents in Iran'. On this list, only Kasravi's name was underlined. It was in Tbilisi where he first became acquainted with a wide spectrum of political ideas and movements, and he soon was employed by the government of Iran in various cultural posts.
A prolific writer, Kasravi was very critical of both the Shi'a clergy and of the policies of the central government. His outspoken ways would lead him to have many supporters and critics starting from the Reza Shah period.
While Abdolhossein Teymourtash was a strong supporter of his works, Mohammad Ali Foroughi is said to have taken strong exception to his literary theories and banned him from contributing to the Farhangestan or to continue publishing. Moreover, he had liberal views on religion, was a strong supporter of democracy, and expressed them in satirical pamphlets like What Is the Religion of the Hajis with Warehouses? His views earned him many powerful enemies such as Ayatollah Khomeini.
His detailed account of the Constitutional Revolution still stands out as one of the most important sources on the events, even though Kasravi was a teenager at the time of the revolution and cannot claim the full authority of a contemporary witness that his writing at times suggests. Kasravi is known for his solid research work on the ancient Azari language and origin of the Azerbaijani people. He showed that the ancient Azari language was an offshoot of Pahlavi language.
Khosro Naghed. Arguing that the ancient Azari language had been closely related to Persian language and the influx of Turkic words began only with the Seljuq invasion, Ahmad Kasravi believed that the true national language of Iranian Azerbaijan was Persian and therefore advocated the linguistic assimilation of Persian in Azarbaijan. In Ahmad Kasravi led the way in establishing the ancestry of the Safavids dynasty with the publication of three influential articles, and disputed the validity of the 'official' Safavid family tree contained in the Safvat al-Safa, and argued convincingly that the ancestors of Shaykh Safi al-Din, who founded the Safavid Order tariqa , were indigenous inhabitants of Iran and were of pure Aryan stock.
Today, the consensus among Safavid historians is that the Safavid family hailed from Persian Kurdistan. The same group had failed in assassinating Kasravi earlier in April in Tehran. History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution , in Persian, p. Note: This book is also available in two volumes, published by Amir Kabir Publications in Amir Kabir's edition is in one volume, pages. Mazda Publications, Costa Mesa, California, ISBN Chronological List.
By the dawn of the twentieth century, Iran was sinking deeper into crisis. It was losing its economic and political independence to the Russian and British empires as a profligate absolute monarchy threw the country ever deeper into debt. A few This is the second and final installment of this book. It was losing its economic and political independence to the Russian and British empires as a profligate absolute monarchy Ahmad Kasravi is one of the most prolific writers of 20th century Iran, with broad interests as a reformer and social thinker. He wrote on a variety of subjects, including history, geography, social criticism, literature and philology.
From the age of 25, when he began to write in Tabriz in , until his assassination 30 years later in , he wrote numerous articles and published some 70 books and pamphlets on a wide range of subjects from history and linguistics to social issues and religious reformism. This work established Kasravi as a prominent scholar and competent linguist in the scholarly circles of both Iran and Europe. The third phase extends from the mids to the end of the s, when Kasravi published some 18 books and pamphlets on the history of Iran, including a number of valuable contributions such as his classical book on the history of the Constitutional Revolution q. Early works. Works on linguistics. According to Kasravi , p. Katouzian, Tehran,
Later, he joined the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. He experienced a sort of conversion to Western learning when he learned that the comet of had been identified as a reappearance of Halley's comet. He abandoned his clerical training after this event and enrolled in the American Memorial School of Tabriz. Thenceforward he became, in Roy Mottahedeh 's words, "a true anti-cleric. Kasravi was associated with the Democrat Party in Iran. Kasravi was a professor of law at the University of Tehran and also a lawyer in Tehran , Iran.